Regulars and Shorts, Urban Almanac

Urban Almanac: April 2012

By Diane Olson

Day by day in the home, garden and sky.

APRIL 1 The Sun rises at 6:12 a.m. today and sets at 6:53 p.m. This month’s average maximum temp along the Wasatch Front is 61°; the average minimum 37°. It typically snows 4.9 in. and rains 2.1 in.

APRIL 2 Look for Venus in the Pleiades tonight and tomorrow. The Pleiades, located in the constellation Taurus, is one of the nearest star clusters to Earth. Visible to the naked eye, it’s been known to humans since at least 1600 BC, when it was depicted on the Nebra sky disc.

APRIL 3 Time to start uncovering strawberry beds. Don’t fertilize, though; wait until blossoms appear, otherwise you’ll get many leaves and few berries.

APRIL 4 Solar activity runs in 11-year cycles and this is a peak year. An especially strong solar flare could briefly distort Earth’s magnetic field, creating spectacular auroras, damaging orbiting spacecraft and possibly even burning out portions of the electrical grid.

APRIL 5 Time to plant blackberries, raspberries, strawberries and fruit trees. Planting holes should be twice the width of the root mass, and no deeper.

APRIL 6 FULL PINK MOON. This month’s full moon name comes from the lovely wild ground phlox that blooms in early spring. Phlox is tough to grow from seed, but easy from cuttings and seedlings, and spring is the time to plant it.

APRIL 7 This would be a great day to go to Golden Spike National Historic Site to look for male sage grouse gathering on their leks, or strutting grounds, to perform their funky, loud mating dances.

APRIL 8 The Easter bunny is a remnant of the pagan festival of Eostre, the celebration of a Germanic goddess whose totem was a hare. The first mention of an Easter-like holiday was in 2400 BCE, when Zoroastrians in the Babylonian city of Ur held a festival on the first full moon following the spring equinox—which is still how the date of Easter is determined. 

APRIL 9 Earth rotates on its axis at nearly 1,000 mph (faster near the equator than the poles), and rotates around the Sun at around 660 mph. We can’t feel either because we have no organ to sense absolute speed; we can only tell how fast we’re going relative to something else.

APRIL 10 Cool gardening trend: Vertical gardens. You can grow vegetables or ornamentals indoors or out in modular wall-hugging planters like those from

APRIL 11 Time to finish trimming summer-blooming vines, shrubs and trees.

APRIL 12 If you live in Salt Lake City, you now have a tool to measure the amount of food you can grow in your yard. Log on to

APRIL 13 LAST QUARTER MOON. When a willow tree is attacked by caterpillars or webworms, it emits a chemical that tells nearby willows to pump extra tannin into their leaves, making them difficult for pests to digest.

APRIL 14 If you haven’t already: Plant arugula, asparagus, beets, broccoli, Brussels­ sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, cilantro, dill, kohlrabi, lettuce, parsnips, potatoes, peas, radishes, spinach, Swiss chard and turnips.

APRIL 15 If it’s clear tonight, grab a telescope or binoculars. Saturn is at its closest approach to Earth, and its rings are the most visible they’ve been since 2008.

APRIL 16 The easiest way to simplify a labor-intensive yard is to replace annual beds and/or lawns with native plants and shrubs.

APRIL 17 Golden currant, Utah service­berry, littleleaf mockorange and creeping Oregon grape are all native plants that require little water or maintenance.

APRIL 18 Today is the average last

snow day.

APRIL 19 Flying insects may someday be used to locate survivors of earthquakes and other disasters. Scientists are experimenting with releasing flying beetles—equipped with tiny cameras and microphones powered by wing movement—into areas deemed too dangerous for human rescue teams.

APRIL 20 Amazing macro photos of bugs:

APRIL 21 NEW MOON. Organic compost is the only soil amendment that you can’t overdo, and really the only one you need.

APRIL 22 EARTH DAY This year’s Earth Day theme is “Mobilize the Earth.” After witnessing the ugly aftermath of an oil spill off the California coast, Wisconsin senator Gaylord Nelson organized the first Earth Day in 1970. He was stunned when 20 million people participated. See what one person can do? Take action today, whether it’s cleaning up an urban or wild place, or adopting a new means of reducing your carbon footprint.

APRIL 23 House flies are uncommonly fond of cooked cabbage.

APRIL 24 Look for sparkly Venus near the waxing Moon tonight.

APRIL 25 Starlings are pros at food gathering, because, unlike most birds, they use varied methods include:

Probing—repetitively plunging their beak into the ground until they find a bug. Probing is often accompanied by bill gaping, or “zirkelning” (cool word, huh?), which is probing with an open beak to enlarge the hole.

Sallying—grabbing a flying insect out of the air, which starlings are particularly good at.

Lunging—pitching forward to snatch a running bug.

Gleaning—plucking food from foliage, the ground, or a crevice.

APRIL 26 Remember, don’t add soil amendments to planting holes: Use the native soil, and then add organic compost as a top dressing.

APRIL 27 Arbor Day. Knocking on wood for good luck originated with the Druids, who rapped on trees to summon the protective spirits within.

APRIL 28 Start prepping beds for warm-weather plants. Amend healthy soil with two or three inches of organic compost, depleted soil with four to six inches.

APRIL 29 FIRST QUARTER MOON. After amending your veggie beds, you can cover them with plastic to warm up the soil more quickly.

APRIL 30 BELTANE/ SPRING CROSS-QUARTER DAY. Look for orange Mercury and the blue star Regulus just above the Moon as you’re out celebrating the Pagan summer kickoff tonight.

Every spring is the only spring—a perpetual astonishment.

—Ellis Peters


This article was originally published on March 30, 2012.